Sri Lanka govt. says 70 Tamil rebels killed in latest fighting

Sri Lanka's defense ministry says this handout photo shows troops with a captured Tamil Tiger craft Thursday.
The Sri Lankan army destroyed six Tamil Tiger boats and killed 70 rebels in a lagoon on the western edge of a no-fire zone early Sunday, Sri Lanka’s Media Center for National Security has said.

Independent reports were not possible since media are not allowed into the area. Reports indicated fighting had intensified as troops scrambled to clear a remaining 1.2 square kilometers before the government could announce that military operations had ended. Sri Lanka’s prime minister warned Saturday that his country “stands on the brink,” as its soldiers cornered Tamil Tiger fighters in an assault that is trapping more than 50,000 civilians on a small plot of coastal land. Government troops seized the last remaining coastal stretch under the control of Tamil Tiger rebels, the Ministry of Defense said Saturday, marking a possible end to more than 25 years of fighting in the island nation.

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The seizure marks the total capture of coastline territory previously controlled by the rebels, it said, after army divisions advanced from the north and south to link up. An international aid worker said the United Nations, which believes there are 50,000 people in the battle zones, was expecting about 20,000 of them to arrive in refugee camps Sunday. There were no medical services in the no-fire zone, the aid worker said. The Media Center for National Security claims 50,097 have come out of battle zones. Watch aid agencies fear for Sri Lanka ยป The rebels — formally known as the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) — have fought for an independent state for minority Tamils in Sri Lanka since 1983. As many as 70,000 people have been killed since the civil war began. Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa returned from Amman, Jordan, on Sunday. Rajapaksa was attending a summit of developing nations and the World Economic Forum.

In an address to the summit in Amman on Saturday, Rajapaksa said the Sri Lankan armed forces had defeated the rebels. “I will be going back to my country Sri Lanka that has been totally freed from the barbaric acts of terrorism of the LTTE. This freedom comes after 30 long years,” Rajapaksa said.